Taking a break from conference play, the Harvard men’s volleyball team (11-6, 7-2 EIVA) traveled to Ohio to take on two ranked opponents in No.13 Ball State (15-5, 5-2 MIVA) and No. 15 Ohio State (8-12, 4-5 MIVA).
In search of its first win on the season against a ranked opponent, the Crimson fell in five sets to the Cardinals on Sunday. But Harvard accomplished the feat just two days later, as the team emerged victorious against the Buckeyes in a five-set thriller.
HARVARD 3, OHIO STATE 2
Playing its second straight non-conference game on the road, the Crimson picked up a hard fought victory over the Buckeyes, defeating Ohio State in a 3-2 decision to earn Harvard's third win over a top-15 opponent in team history.
After falling in five sets to Ball State two nights earlier, the Crimson bounced back with a balanced offensive effort against the Buckeyes to earn the 25-15, 25-19, 20-25, 21-25, and 17-15 victory at St. John’s Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
“We were as good as we’ve been all season those first two games,” Harvard coach Brian Baise said. “Then [Ohio State] started picking up its game and put pressure on us [to make it] a battle. The difference in the fifth set was we made the points [we needed to].”
The Crimson had four different players record double-digit kills on the night, spearheaded by junior outside hitter DJ White’s 13 to go along with 10 digs. Senior Kyle Rehkemper recorded 12 kills while co-captain Nick Madden and freshman Casey White each added 11.
The first set saw the Crimson take control with an 8-1 run sparked by a DJ White kill to take a 10-3 lead, an advantage which would never drop below six points. Harvard held the Buckeyes to a mere -.091 hitting percentage compared to a .429 clip for the Crimson.
The second set followed a similar storyline, as Harvard transformed a tight 9-8 set into a 21-12 lead behind a balanced distribution of kills. An ace by Casey White would seal the set for the visitors.
But the script flipped in the third set, with the Buckeyes coming out strong early on. A 7-2 run by the home team to start off the game put the Crimson in an early hole.
Harvard would manage to trim the gap to two through a 4-0 run later on in the set, but Ohio State would ultimately pull away to win the game.
The fourth stanza saw Harvard take an early advantage, which it held for the majority of the set, before the Buckeyes ultimately took control with a kill by Alex Judkins to go up 19-18. Ohio State would use a 3-0 run to go up 22-19, a lead which it would never relinquish on its way to tying the match at two sets apiece.
According to Madden, the sudden change of momentum was a result of a shift in gameplay, as the Buckeyes used a new strategy to claw back into the match.
“They started getting their offense closer to the net,” Madden said. “They stepped up their passing; we pulled off [slightly] on our serving and we couldn’t stop their offense. Overall, they picked it up and we stepped a little bit off of the gas.”
As both teams looked to claim victory, a pivotal fifth set saw both teams go back-and-forth until a Buckeye service error initiated a 3-0 run for Harvard to take an 11-8 lead.